The life struggles and successes of the migrant construction worker in Accra, Ghana
Globally, the construction sector employs several millions of migrants and is a major entry point for rural-urban migrants into the urban labour force. Its role in sustaining livelihoods both at origin and destination is critical in the development process. This paper provides an empirical assessment of the livelihood struggles of the construction worker in Accra by examining the nature of the job, challenges and fulfilment of expectations. It draws mainly on qualitative data from individual interviews of migrants in the destinations and their families in the origin. The findings show that the construction sector is a better paying sector than many others, but can be classified as precarious work due to the multiple dangers and insecurities associated with it. Segregation between skill-based and non-skilled work defines the fortunes of workers, as those with skills have higher incomes and prospects for social mobility. Very few women work in this sector due to the socialisation effects of the patriarchal systems in Ghana. The casualization of labour due to neoliberal policies and the informalisation of the private housing sector mean lower welfare benefits to workers and insecurity in old age due to non-payment of social security deductions. Migrants serve as an important conduit for redistributing wealth from richer spaces to poorer spaces, and should therefore be supported in achieving their developmental objectives.
Keywords: construction worker; migration; casualization; Ghana; livelihoods